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Crashing on boot can be a symptom of many different problems. We'll work through some troubleshooting steps that might help.

I'm running Windows XP Pro and I really don't have many problems with it, but I'm having a problem with it crashing during or after boot up. When I go to manage and do a check about what's going on, I see red errors and warnings all over the place. I've tried Googling the problem, but I can't get anywhere with that and that's the reason why I'm writing you. I'm next to pulling my hair out dealing with this issue. Would you please give me your take on the right direction on dealing with this aggravating issue? I've done a full scan with Malwarebytes and it did come up with two Trojans that it deleted. Otherwise, the computer is as clean as I can get it.

In this excerpt from Answercast #39, I go through a list of steps to clean a machine up and see if that will stop if from crashing on boot.

Red errors and warnings

So unfortunately, I don't really know where you're seeing these red errors and warnings. If it's in the Event Viewer, close the Event Viewer and stop looking at it!

The Event Viewer is full of red errors and warnings on a good day. It's hard to say what's going on. It's not a helpful utility for the layperson to help diagnose what may be going on – especially in scenarios like you're describing here.

Intermittent crashing

So the problem, as I understand it, is it is simply crashing sometimes.

Well, there's really not much specific I can say about fixing that particular problem, other than to point you at the article I have, "Why does my computer crash at random times?"

  • It could be heat;

  • It could be software;

  • It could be hardware issues;

  • It could be so many different things.

Hands-on help

My gut tells me that the right solution here is for you to take the machine to a technician and have them diagnose it hands-on.

  • It's just too difficult to say, "This is what could be the problem."


Now, I realize that's not an option for everybody. So in the case where you can't go, here's what I would do next.

  • I would first back that machine up!

In fact, start backing up regularly if you're not backing up already. It's very possible (I'm not saying it is, but it's very possible) that these are the warning signs of an imminent, catastrophic failure.

Repair install

So with your machine backed up, I'm really tempted to say you should:

  • Perform a Repair install of Windows.

That will remove a lot of cruft from the machine; it will reset a bunch of important things back to a default or natural state shortly after Windows was installed.

Perhaps a full reinstall

I don't know if you've ever actually done a reinstall of Windows on this machine. If you want to go that far, it may actually be advisable to:

  • Do a complete reinstall of Windows.

Over time, many things accumulate. There's a common term for it called, "software rot." Over time, as the system is upgraded, as programs are installed and uninstalled, and updates are installed, and older updates get replaced, things just sort-of get a little unstable. Sometimes, that can manifest in the kinds of things that you're seeing here.

Update drivers

Another option is to make sure that your drivers are all up to date – specifically, the drivers that might be important during boot up:

  • Hard disk drivers;

  • Sound and audio drivers;

  • Video drivers and so forth.

Those are the kinds of things that I would look at there.

Hard drive sector

I've seen this kind of thing be a disk related issue – where there's simply a bad spot on the hard disk. A spot that is sometimes read properly and sometimes is not.

  • When it's not, as a result, the machine may crash.

So one thing to do is to run ChkDsk on your hard drive, if you're so inclined.

I happen to have a copy of SpinRite for when I encounter these kinds of problems, I'd run SpinRite on the hard drive to see if there's something flaky going on on the hard drive. I have definitely heard stories of that simply resolving these kinds of issues.

And like I said, a complete reinstall is not out of the question, particularly if the machine has never had that happen to it since the day it was born. But ultimately, there are just so many different things that could be going on here.

The best advice I could give you is to take it to a technician; get someone who can actually get their hands on the machine and diagnose the machine, specifically as it's coming up, to see if there are any additional clues that might help understand exactly what's going on here.

End of Answercast #39 Back to – Audio Segment

Article C5641 - July 30, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

July 30, 2012 4:19 PM

I would also recommend using Who Crashed to diagnose which module or modules are causing the crashes.

Robert R
July 31, 2012 8:45 AM

You occasionally say "take it to a technician." Sadly, there are probably more bad technicians out there than good. Might be worth an article on how to find a good tech or things to ask to judge how good a tech is.

Karl Menzel
July 31, 2012 9:31 AM

Where is the EVENT VIEWER located on the c:/ drive?

July 31, 2012 11:27 AM

I suggest you try booting into Safe Mode. Keep pressing the F8 key after you start the computer until you get the boot menu. Choose plain old Safe Mode and see if you experience the same issues. If no issues in Safe Mode, it's most likely a software issue and I would follow Leo's advice to backup and re-install Windows from scratch. If you still have problems in Safe Mode, I may suspect a hardware (RAM? PSU?) issue and follow Leo's advice and take it to a technician.

Gene Lynch
July 31, 2012 3:14 PM

I had this problem and the monitor turned out to be the problem. I switched monitors and no more problem.

John Dobbie
July 31, 2012 7:27 PM

From Sydney, Australia
Something you can do which is very often effective is as follows:
Unplug you computer from the mains, so it is completely depowered.
Take the case off, and exercise every connector that you can get at.
You do not need to completely unplug things - just move the contacts so as to re-establish connections.
Some power supply connections have a retaining catch which needs to be released so you can partially pull out the plug.
Metal connections, over time, develop an oxide layer on the surfaces. Moving the connection can break though this to make connection again.

The lower the voltage across the connection (if undone), the more likely the oxide layer will cause problems.
Remember the improvement in car reliability when the electrical systems & batteries were changed from 6 volts to 12 volts. The telephone system uses 48 volts, and they don't even need to solder connections. For indoor connections, they bare the wire and wrap it around the metal post with fingers!

August 5, 2012 6:47 PM

Trouble shooting is usually a process of elimination.

Is the cpu hot ?..touch the heat sink with your fingers.If operating correctly it should feel mildly warm. If really hot, the fan may not be working or heat sink and fan full of dust. Use a bit of light paper to see if fan is not touch with your hurts!Also check fan operation with paper of video/graphics card ...these can fail and overheat as well.

To eliminate hard drive and operating system as the problem , boot from cd with a linux based operating system that runs direct from the DVD/CD. See if the machine still fails ..if not, then the hard drive or windows or other software could be the problem.

I use ulimate boot CD {free from}which has Firefox browser and other programs built in. No need to install on hard drive works fine loaded into ram.

Take ram out, clean gold contacts with an eraser.Do not touch ram contacts with bare finders..use rubber gloves preferably.Put back in different slots if possible .Try one stick at a may be faulty. Put back in correct way or you can damage motherboard and ram.Check YouTube if not sure process

There is software that will test ram and hard drive. Search
Use a $10 multimeter to check voltages of power is five volts,yellow 12 and black is earth.
Just pull one connection off at a time
A tolerance of 10% on 12 volts and 5 % on 5 volts is ok.{1.2 volts and 0.5 volts resp}
Speedfan program {free} is good to give temperature and voltage checks.
There are more checks but this will do for now

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